Rachael's Centre for Torah, Mussar and Ethics is a not-for-profit pluralistic website dedicated to online Jewish learning
Sign In
Welcome to our new site. Click here to learn more about Rachael's Centre

Holiday Insights

Where is God in the Purim Story?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

This is the question that is brought up in synagogues all over the world. The Story of Esther is a Book of the Jewish Bible that has no mention of God. Was this omission on purpose, or just a divine oversight? http://www.rachaelscentre.org


Is Esther a Good Jewish Role Model?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Time and time again we look at Esther and ask if we should tell our kids to be more like Esther. After all, she married out of her faith and lied to her husband. So, is she actually a good role model? You’ll have to watch this video to hear the answer.

Are You Ready for Purim?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Purim is here and you have your mask, hamentashen and gregor, do you need anything else? Rachael has the answer…

Tu Bishvat for Today’s World

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Happy Tu Bishvat everyone!!  It’s the birthday of the trees - the day we celebrate and contemplate the trees and growing things around us…Yes, we have a day for that.  It’s one of the few days that has no controversy surrounding it - there’s no historical issue - no revisionist propaganda -  no one who could argue that this is hurting someone or based in a racist philosophy or demands archeological proof that there were really trees in the ancient world.  We simply celebrate trees and the fruit or nuts they produce… oh oh, I said it…the word that brings shakes and quivers to the culinary industry…the word that makes every parent pale when it’s mentioned and causes stressful conversations before play dates…yes, the dreaded word - NUTS.

So to be politically correct, let’s agree to have a nut free Tu Bishvat.  But can we sing songs about nuts?  The first Tu Bishvat song I ever learned was ‘Hashkaidiyah Porachat’ (The Almond Tree is Blooming) and I made hand motions and pretended to be an almond tree.  Maybe all the kids who want to sing the almond song should be allowed to do so in the school office.

Though I understand that there are growing fruit allergies present in children as well.  Now we’re going to have to celebrate Tu Bishvat without fruit and nuts.  Um, gee, I think the only politically correct way to celebrate the birthday of the trees is with cake (nutfree of course).

Oh well, it’s tough being a Jew.


Rosh Hashanah: All you need to know in 2 minutes

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Rosh Hashanah is a very busy time in a Jewish home, and we know you have a lot to do, so here’s the meaning behind this High Holiday is 2 minutes.

The Jewish Adjustment Bureau

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Rachael Posted:

A few days ago I saw the movie “The Adjustment Bureau” starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.  I liked the movie because it was fun and not the thriller/chaser/blood & guts film you might expect.


For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie and wants to, please stop reading now because I’m going to discuss some of the core ideas.


The movie plays with the idea that there are many levels of ‘messengers’ or ‘agents’ who do the bidding of a higher power called ‘The Chairman’.  For every person there is a plan and these agents make sure that we are all staying on our plan because chance circumstances can sometimes derail things.  It’s a great concept to play with even to the point of having someone trip and fall which delays them just those few seconds needed to miss a bus etc. etc.


The bump in the plan is when the two heroes are determined to be together even though they’re not supposed to be.  The movie raises the question of whether or not you can change your plan.  After the movie I had a fantastic discussion about the Jewish themes that weave throughout the movie.  The concept of ‘angels‘ or ‘agents’ follows a Jewish thread but most importantly, the idea that determination and genuine heartfelt commitment can indeed change our fates, our ‘plans’.


That is the essence of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  The idea that there is a destiny drafted for each of us but that we can effect that draft before it is sealed.  We are in part the creators of our own destinies.  That’s why Judaism says we should choose every action we take and not allow things to ‘just happen’.


I definitely recommend the movie.  :-)


What to do on Shavuot When You’re Lactose Intolerant

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

It’s always a challenge to look past the dairy piece of Shavuot especially if you have an intolerance to the food group. But Rachael explains what you can do to celebrate the holiday without eating dairy food.


Recipe for Hamentashen

Monday, March 14th, 2011

As we all prepare our Mishloach Manot, Costumes and food, we thought we would share with you a great recipe for Hamentashen, courtesy of allrecipes.com


  • 1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (12 ounce) can poppyseed filling


  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the orange juice and vanilla. Mix in the baking powder, then gradually stir in the flour until the dough forms a ball. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. I like to do mine overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 3 inch circles using a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Place circles on the prepared cookie sheets. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling onto the center of each circle. (Any more and it will ooze out) Pinch the sides of each circle to form a triangle, covering as much of the filling as possible. The cookies may be frozen on the cookie sheets if desired to help retain their shape while cooking.
  4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until light golden brown. These are best undercooked slightly. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 36 Cookies

If you aren’t one for cooking, there’s always the grocery store!

A Little Insight on Tu B’Shevat for Rosh Chodesh Shevat

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The month of Shevat is home to the holiday of Tu B’Shevat. The holiday is most commonly referred to as the “birthday of the trees” so why do we celebrate a New Year for the trees just as we have Rosh Hashanah, a New Year for humanity? Rachael has the answer.

The 7 Species of Tu B’Shevat

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

In celebrating Tu B’Shevat, it is customary to plant trees and to eat the shivat haminim, the seven species, that we read about in Jewish text. Rachael introduces each of the species and explains the significance behind these foods and how they relate to Tu B’Shevat.